Aria Health System and Jefferson Health on Tuesday entered into a binding agreement to merge, a transaction expected to be completed this spring.
Philadelphia-based Jefferson includes Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, the combined entity created when it merged with Abington Health in May 2015.
With the new merger, Jefferson, the largest academic medical center in Philadelphia, is primed to compete with Philadelphia's University of Pennsylvania Health System, the largest in the city.
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"Integrating Abington and now Aria, Jefferson is building a unique model combining a preeminent health system and a comprehensive university," said Dr. Stephen Klasko, president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health. "Together, we are reimagining healthcare delivery, higher education and medical research in the Philadelphia region and beyond."
Last year, Klasko rolled out an ambitious plan for the post-merger, including a $20 million investment in telehealth.
The goal, Klasko said at the time, is to to have "hub and hub" model, where patients can consult Jefferson clinicians over an Internet video chat, get specialty care in a community-based setting and come into the hospital when they need to.
Under the deal, Aria will be designated as a regional referral site and will be an epicenter for new program development as well as expansion of existing programs, they said.
The definitive agreement comes after Aria and Jefferson signed a non-binding letter of intent in October after spending two years planning the partnership.
Aria CEO Kathleen Kinslow is slated to run the combined entity.
"Everyone involved with the exploration process - from our board of directors and its steering committee that has provided oversight for this process to physician leaders and senior leadership at Aria - agreed that by joining forces with Jefferson, we could have the greatest impact on transforming healthcare across the region," Kinslow said.
Aria Health has three acute care hospitals serving northeast Philadelphia and Lower Bucks County.
Jefferson Health is comprised of five hospitals in Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks Counties, and also in Camden County, New Jersey.